During the past three weeks
Picturing the Past has looked at the role community clubs have played in
Transylvania County since their establishment in the 1950s. This week’s focus is on how families in these
rural communities earned and supplemented their income.
was vital to the local economy. Families who lived in the rural areas of the
county operated small farms, raising crops and livestock to meet their needs. By the 1950s rural
residents were looking for ways to increase their income and meet the
challenges of a changing economy.
|The Bearwallow Springs Jelly House in the Sapphire-Whitewater community
sold jams, jellies and preserves. They employed kitchen help and purchased
produce from local residents. In 1962 they expanded to accommodate the
The annual reports required for
community clubs participating in development programs offer
a picture of some of the changes taking place.
They reported how many families in their community operated
full-time farms and part-time farms, the number of individuals with full-time
and part-time jobs outside of the farm and ways families boosted their income
through both farm and non-farm sources.
In 1957 the Balsam Grove community reported only two full-time
farm families. However, there were 59
part-time farmers and no families identified themselves as non-farm families. Only 28 individuals were employed full-time
at non-farm jobs.
In the valley surrounding the Little River community there
were 17 full-time farm families, 30 part-time farmers and 100 non-farm families
in 1957. Seventy-five individuals were
employed full-time and 25 part-time outside of farming. By 1967 the number of full-time farms had
dropped to 10, while part-time farm families increased to 69. There were also 115 non-farm families. The number of people employed full-time in
non-farming jobs had jumped to 222, with 26 people in part-time
The Cathey’s Creek community, located just outside of
Brevard, had six full-time and 15 part-time farms in 1970. In addition, there were 219 non-farm
Farm families were able to
increase their income by implementing practices learned from educational programs
developed by community club programs such as planting high yield varieties of
corn or alfalfa, increasing feed production for livestock and expanding into
new products, like Christmas trees or trout farming. They were also encouraged to work closely with
the Agricultural Extension Services, Cattleman’s Association and other agencies.
Outside jobs included house
cleaning, child care, handyman services and school bus drivers. There were family owned businesses like
grocery stores and small shops in many communities. Individuals were self-employed as
beauticians, carpenters, mechanics and in other service related jobs. Families used their resources and skills to
create handcrafted items, furniture or artwork to sell. Others had cabins or trailers that they
rented to seasonal visitors.
Numbers varied from community to community but the general
trend over time was toward fewer full-time farm families and more individuals
employed in non-farming occupations. By
the 1980s and 1990s more individuals were commuting to full-time jobs in
Brevard, Rosman or outside of the county.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments, or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.